This Saturday, Nov. 13, Cheshire residents will again gather for one of the town’s most anticipated events of the year — Lights of Hope.
Don Walsh, who co-founded the event with his wife Jenifer back in 2005, is excited for this year’s event, and hopes that now, with the COVID-19 pandemic fading in the rearview mirror, residents will gather once again to support their neighbors in need.
“I really love every year that our event comes after Election Day,” Walsh said. “I’ve dedicated a lot of time, away from my campaign, to make sure that it goes off without a hitch each year. It’s just a great opportunity for people to set aside differences and come together for a good cause.”
Walsh, who recently won his re-election bid for the Third District Town Council seat, spoke about how splitting his time between his campaign and the Lights of Hope event has stretched him thin this year.
“My wife and I have been doing this (event) for 17 years — 15 of them have been town-wide. It’s a lot of work,” he said. “If you had told me our organization would be as big as it is now back then, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
This year, Walsh and his team have pre-sold 30,000 luminary bags, which is a 10% increase from last year.
“We did really well last year despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic really kept a lot of us apart,” he said. “And this year we hope to do even better. Each year, we want to be able to give a little bit more.”
Walsh appreciates all the help he receives from local businesses, and he returns the favor by giving all the donated funds back into the community.
“We really need a lot of support and help to do the ‘Mile of Hope’ that we do every year down on Route 10,” he said. “But the town is so open and willing to help, we’ve sort of got a whole system going now.”
Cheshire’ s Lights of Hope has raised over $1 million since its inception, which has gone to fund a variety of local nonprofit organizations, including the Cheshire Food Pantry and the Cheshire Human Services Department.
“Last year, the Food Pantry and Human Services put out the call for help because they desperately needed money to support (those in need), and we answered it,” Walsh recalled. “It feels really good to be able to help out when needed and be there for the local community that has supported us through the years.”
The Lights of Hope event has exceeded its humble beginnings as a neighborhood celebration and has extended to the local schools, and with numerous streets in town participating.
“Our Lights of Hope club at Cheshire High School has almost 200 members this year,” Walsh added. “And those kids, they’re some of the hardest working people out there. They help out and can really gather when we need them.”
The 2021 Cheshire’s Lights of Hope event will kick off in front of First Congregational Church, 111 Church Dr., at 2 p.m. with the check presentations. At 2:30 p.m., setup for the “Mile of Hope” will commence. Then at dusk, luminaries will be lit throughout town by volunteers and homeowners.
Luminaries can be ordered online through Friday, Nov. 12, for pickup at First Congregational Church on Saturday. Luminaries can also be purchased on Saturday at these locations:
•R.W. Hine Ace Hardware, 231 Maple Ave., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (drive-thru)
•First Congregational Church green, 111 Church Dr., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (drive-thru)
•Cheshire Nursery, 1317 South Main St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
•Main Street Caffe, 209 West Main St., from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sand for the luminary bags will be available at Paws Pet Resort & Spa, 312 East Johnson Ave.; at Cheshire Nursery, 1317 South Main St., and the parking lot on Old Towne Rd. across from Cheshire Coffee. A one-gallon Ziploc bag of sand will be enough for each kit of 10 luminaries.
(Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the Lights of Hope organization had raised $1 million during last year’s event.)